As Health At Every Size (HAES) dietitians, we support our clients reach their nutrition goals through a weight neutral approach. This means that the number on the scale doesn’t dictate our care plan or influence our recommendations. We utilize a holistic approach that looks at each client as a whole and assess health status from a variety of non-weight indicators. A weight-neutral approach encourages adopting positive modifiable behaviors (like eating fruits and vegetables and moving your body), rather than pursuing weight loss, to promote health and manage disease.
Why is this approach valuable? Because using weight based metrics to assess health isn’t helpful and focusing interventions on weight loss can actually cause harm. Most people (90-95%) who lose weight will regain the weight (and often more) within two years. Intentional weight loss attempts also increase risk of developing an eating disorder and experiencing negative self image, anxiety and depression. It is shown that weight stigma or bias is more likely to cause harm, resulting in poorer health outcomes as a product of being fat shamed, especially in a clinical setting.
Non-Weight Indicators of Health
If you are looking to broaden your definition of health beyond weight, here are non-weight indicators of health you might consider:
Heart rate is the number of times your heart beats per minute. Heart rates naturally vary from person to person. They can also vary throughout the day based on our activity.
Blood chemistry includes testing blood sugar, cholesterol, and lipids to indicate how well our body is reacting to some of the things we are putting in it. These can be tested without a doctor asking about weight!
Blood pressure measures the force of the blood circulating around our bodies. Blood pressure varies throughout the day. It may be low in the morning, and high during vigorous exercise.
How energetic or lethargic we feel from day to day can be an important health indicator. Feeling tired all the time may mean you're not sleeping enough at night or not eating enough throughout the day. On the other hand, having too much energy might make it hard to sleep at night.
There are many ways to assess hydration status. Thirst is one measure. The color of our urine, feeling dizzy or light headed, and having dry mouth, lips, or eyes can also be signs that we are not hydrating adequately.
Moods can change daily or hourly. Intense moods can make it hard to function in daily life, so it's important for health professionals to know if moods are affecting your ability to live a normal life.
Sleep is so important to every aspect of our lives and health. Dysregulated sleep cycles can increase the risk of heart disease, and make it hard to focus and participate in life.
Stress & Anxiety
Excessive negative daily stress has been linked to increased inflammation throughout the body. Health professionals should be aware of any increased inflammation which could cause health problems.
Appetite & Satiety
Our appetite and how much food fills us up is an important health indicator and can guide us in adequately meeting our nourishment needs. Though these signals naturally vary from day to day, prolonged lack of appetite or early satiety may need to be explored by a health professional.
Our ability (or inability) to focus can be due to many different factors. Sleep, life stress, and adequate nourishment can all make a difference in our ability to focus. Consistent inability to focus should be a red flag for a health professional.
Pain is an indicator of health. Chronic pain can make it difficult to live the life you want to live. There are treatments available to help pain. Health providers should be able to guide you in the right direction.
Frequent headaches can have a plethora of health indications. From migraines, to needing glasses, to stress, hunger, or lack of sleep. Headaches can affect daily life, and are important to address if they are disruptive in your life.
Level of Activity
Studies often identify the negative health implications of sitting all day, but over-exercise can also have adverse health outcomes. A healthy level of activity differs for everyone, and can be addressed without focusing on weight!
How Nourish RX Can Support You
Remember, health is individual so your healthy baseline of any of these measures will be different than someone else’s. What is important is that you are measuring and pursuing health in a way that is realistic and feels good for you!
Our team at NourishRX wants to support you in acheiving your health and nutrition goals through a weight neutral approach. Contact us to see how our 1:1 nutrition counseling or other support services best fit your needs.